How Important Was Your Last Breath?

Never Let Your Entrepreneurial Fire Die

“How important was your last breath?” asked Grant Cardone, author of the 10X Rule. “Now tell me. How important is your next breath?”

One of the concerns I have right now is when to wind down. When I turned 60, which was almost five years ago, people started telling me to slow down. They said, “You worked hard all your life. Take it easy. You’ve earned it. Play with the grandkids. Travel with Kathy. Play golf. Ride your motorcycle. For God’s sake, relax!”

Then there are the other people.

I recently had lunch with John, a successful entrepreneur (not his real name). He is a graduate of MIT, class of ‘62.  A friend introduced him as an accomplished entrepreneur and a man of faith.

I looked around the room and sitting at the table closest to the door was this gentleman a few years older than I. He was immaculately dressed in a well-tailored three-piece suit with a red tie. The perfect look for a southern gentleman.

After becoming acquainted, he said, “I’ve been struggling to put together my resume. I can’t remember when I last wrote a resume.”

Then he handed me a bound booklet which contained a cover letter of introduction, his resume, and a page for each of his significant projects.

“Why are you giving me this?” I asked.

“Because I need a job,” he said as he looked me right in the eye.

I learned his last real estate project was ill-timed. The investors became nervous so they got a lawyer involved. This led to a foreclosure of the property along with all of John’s net worth.

So at 72 he’s trying to find a way to survive. He has social security, but it isn’t enough. After selling his house and every other asset he owned, he needs more. His circumstances broke my heart.

I said, “I can’t imagine what you are going through. To spend a lifetime building a great reputation only to have it impugned by impatient investors and an over-zealous lawyer. And now, with the loss of your net worth, you are looking for a job. Humbling does not adequately describe what you are going through.”

The situation hit close to home. This could be me. I put deals together.

As they say in AA meetings, “There but for the grace of God go I.” I wanted to help John. I gave him some advice, but it was the advice I would give to a forty-something looking for employment. I don’t know how to help a man of his age and talent. Not knowing where to go with this, I simply stopped and prayed for him.

I said, “Why not figure out a way to retire? You have kids who will help, don’t you?”

He said, “I had the good pleasure to know some very successful people in my life. Every one of them died within six months of retiring. I will not do that. I have a lot to offer. I just need to find the right business to apply my skills.”

I love this man. As a man of faith, John knows God gave us three commandments when he created Adam and Eve.

  • Go.
  • Create.
  • Work.

It is how he made us, and that’s who we are. The world is telling me to stop. God is telling me to go.

If I retire, I will begin living off my last breath.

This is why the 10X author’s comments hit home with me. All I’ll have to talk about is what I used to do and what I accomplished. My world will become smaller with fewer people in my life. I’ll lack purpose and stop multiplying. My work is done. I’ll be done.

But if I live looking forward to the next breath, I’ll go into the world, create, and work. I’ll be looking for that next job, the next opportunity, the next place to grow and apply my skills.

The word “retirement” is not in the Bible. When I ask my mentors who are a decade ahead of me what I should be doing, the advice is always the same. Keep serving and growing until you just can’t anymore. You’ll slow down. We all do over time.

John is in a jam. But he continues to go and meet people. Continues to create. Continues to work. He is all about his next breath. What about you? What breath are you living on…the last or the next?

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3 thoughts on “How Important Was Your Last Breath?

  1. Charlie,

    “It is how he made us, and that’s who we are. The world is telling me to stop. God is telling me to go.”

    Consider that God may be telling you to go is not the same as people telling you to stop. God may be telling you to work, but in another mode, while people are telling you to stop “going” in the same mode that you have done in the past.

    For example, it may be inapproriate to make entrepreneurial risk $$ investments at this stage in your life, but that does not mean that you dont continue to “go” in relationship building, in influencing others so they may be successful.

    It may be that you just need to define “go” or “success” differently than when you were a hard charging 50 year old. I know from experience that is a challenging transition.

    Ralph